Breath Testing for Bacterial Overgrowth

A recent review (Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2014; 12: 1964-72) provides useful advice on testing for bacterial overgrowth and explains the limitations/obstacles in determining whether bacterial overgrowth is present.

Their recommendations:

  • Preparation: avoid antibiotics for 4 weeks prior to testing, avoid bismuth for 2-4 weeks, avoid probiotics for 2-3 weeks before testing, avoid consumption of non absorbable carbohydrates (eg. pasta, bread, fiber cereal, beans) the night prior
  • Glucose substrate for hydrogen breath testing is likely most suitable.  50 g in 250 mL.  Check baseline and then every 15 minutes over 120 minute testing interval.  Positive study: increase of 12 ppm (or more) over baseline and/or baseline >20 ppm (if proper test conditions)
  • Glucose breath test (GBT): sensitivity 20-93%, specificity 30-86%.  False-positive results can occur with rapid small-bowel transit.  GBT may not detect distal small bowel bacterial overgrowth.  Lactulose breath test (LBT) generally has lower specificity.
  • If breath testing is not available, small-bowel aspiration for quantitative culture is a reasonable consideration (challenging methodology).  Alternatively, a trial of empiric antibiotics may be considered if pretest probability is high.

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One thought on “Breath Testing for Bacterial Overgrowth

  1. Pingback: Breath Test Reliability for Bacterial Overgrowth | gutsandgrowth

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